Jennifer MacKenzie is an agricultural photo journalist with almost 30 year's experience. Operating from her base in Cumbria, Jennifer undertakes mainly industry-related freelance writing and photography.

North Sheep 2005

Sheep industry leaders were upbeat for the sector’s future outlook at the north’s premier sheep event for the region, North Sheep 2005 at Whinfell Park, near Penrith, on Wednesday (June 1).

Around 10,000 people – undeterred by the day’s continuous rain - attended the bi-annual event hosted by Cumbrian agri-businessman Allan Jenkinson at Whinfell Park, the central unit of his 1,700-acre estate, where sheep are the main enterprise.

As well as tours of the farm featuring the 2,400 North of England Mule flock along with 800 Texel cross ewes, visitors to the event were able to look at more than 40 sheep breed stands, and over 140 trade stands as well as watching sheep dog trialling and listening to a series of seminars from industry leaders.

NSA chief executive John Thorley, front, who officially opened North Sheep
NSA chief executive John Thorley, front, who officially opened North Sheep, with, left to right, Whinfell Park manager Nick Scholefield, organising committee chairman Carl Stephenson and farm manager Iain Scott.

Making the official opening of the event, National Sheep Association chief executive John Thorley said he believed the prospects for sheep farming were as good as they had been for some time, in spite of the massive changes with the new Single Farm Payment scheme.

“I take the view that the pendulum which has been swinging away from what’s good for sheep farming is starting to swing back, certainly in so far as the political side is concerned,” he said.

“For far too long we have been the subject of ever greater rules from Brussels, ever increasing downward price pressure from supermarkets and the large abattoirs.”

Mr Thorley said that France’s “no” vote on Sunday to a European Constitution had to be good news which could have very significant consequences.

“This gradual but inexorable tightening of the slip know to the point where individual country initiative has been stifled, goes well beyond the original; concept of the founding fathers of the Common Market,” he added.

At a press briefing Cumbrian sheep producer and EBLEX vice chairman David Raine said that against the background of the SFP sheep farmers would have to make their enterprises as easy to manage as possible while taking advantage of new technology.

“We have only a limited amount of time to get our sheep businesses right under the new system.

“We have a serious labour shortage due to economics and one of the big concerns is the costs imposed on us by government which they must be able to fully justify,” he added.

New opportunities for exporting both breeding livestock and finished lamb and beef were presented to producers.

North Yorkshire County Council is financing a year-long pilot project with a view to developing new business abroad and there are plans to extend the project across the northern counties of England, including Cumbria and Northumbria.

Romanian visitors to North Sheep
Gathering information on British sheep breeds, Romanian visitors to North Sheep, standing centre left to right, assistant trade development officer Codruta Iovanas and secretary of the Patronate of Romanian Breeders and Exporters of Ovines Dr Sever Bogdan Putin, with Len Chamberlain, standing left and Henry Lewis, right on the Beltex Sheep Society's stand. Holding the Beltex sired lambs out of Texel cross ewes is, left to right, society secretary Helen Ashton, and breeders of the sheep Rachel and Kevin Buckle, of Buckles Farm, Barras, Kirkby Stephen.

Romanian sheep industry representatives attended North Sheep as part of a four-day mission financed by the North Yorkshire council’s export development programme.

Describing the unique project, mission organiser Len Chamberlain said: “So far we have visited France and Germany and hosted French and Italian inward missions to Yorkshire-based companies. There are plans to extend the project across the three northern regions.

“The project embraces the whole of the food chain from primary producers, auction marts to processors and it is intended to raise awareness of markets outside the domestic market.”

Ben Shadwick with a shearling ram
Ten year old Ben Shadwick with a shearling ram from his father Mark's 40-ewe Zwartble flock at Raughton Head, Carlisle, which was on show at the breed society's stand at North Sheep.

Henry Lewis of the MLC exports group, told producers attending the event’s breakfast seminar that there were numerous reasons for encouraging sheep exports – the UK had Europe’s largest sheep industry made up of numerous breeds and producers were breeding for scrapie resistance.

“The sheep sector for various reasons has not exported to the same extent as the cattle and pig industry. Probably around 10,000 breeding sheep are currently exported from the UK,” he said.

The International Agriculture and Technology Centre at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, an agri-food sector export business targeted Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.

However, Mr Lewis said export certification allowed breeding sheep to be exported to all the EU as well as St Helena.

Sheep semen could be sold into all the EU as well as Australia, Canada, Chile, Romania and the USA while embryos could be sold into Australia as well as EU countries.

The pan-industry body the British Livestock Genetics Consortium acted as an umbrella organisation for British genetics exports, he said, working through direct sales leads, networking and contacts, exhibition participation and inward and outward mission support.

At North Sheep the English Beef and Lamb Executive’s Better Returns Programme, unveiled a number of new initiatives, including a scheme to offer English producers a free £200 voucher towards the cost of new weighing equipment.

The programme, which runs to the end of December this year, also launched its Recorded Flock’s Directory which lists English flocks recording with MLC Signet, together with BRP breed benchmarks and ram buying tips.

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